Politics postsWednesday January 21, 2015
The Best #SOTU Ever?
Patrica and I went to dinner last night for my birthday so I missed Pres. Obama's State of the Union address and didn't get to watch it until tonight. Holy crap, is that good. It's a thing of beauty. I don't even know what my favorite part was. This challenge to Congress on minimum wage maybe?
Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That's why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It's 2015. It's time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they've earned. And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.
This subtle slam on the chest-beating of the Roger Aileses of the world?
Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin's aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters. That's how America leads — not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.
This bit on global warming and the doofuses who want to ignore global warming?
2014 was the planet's warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn't make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.
I've heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they're not scientists; that we don't have enough information to act. Well, I'm not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
This admission and cause for optimism?
You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn't a liberal America, or a conservative America; a black America or a white America — but a United States of America. I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home — a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world's great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.
Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn't delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It's held up as proof not just of my own flaws — of which there are many — but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.
I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong. I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.
This call for a new type of politics?
I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn't what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision. Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.
I've said it before and I'll say it again and I'll keep saying it until I'm dead in my grave: My president.
Mario Cuomo: 1932-2015
I heard the following exchange on NPR this morning following the death of Gov. Mario Cuomo last night. It's from a 2004 interview conducted by Steve Inskeep regarding Cuomo's book, “Why Lincoln Matters: Today More than Ever.” It's a nice, smart exchange in a grubby, stupid time.
President Lincoln never professed to belong to an organized church of any kind.
That’s absolutely accurate. If he was anything, he was a rationalist.
And even though he was not part of an organized religion, Lincoln did invoke God in his speeches, and used the language of the Bible in his speeches.
He used the language of the Bible over and over in his second inaugural—how religious his references are. That’s absolutely true. But he never talks about Jesus as the son of God. And he doesn’t talk about “God”; he talks about “Creator.” He waas clearly not a person who accepted any specific religious faith.
In the second inaugural, there’s the line about, “As God gives us to see the right.” I mean, there are references to God.
Yes, well, but he never makes an argument for God.
I just wonder if it says something about the electorate that politicians were addressing then and now? Something practical.
Well, let me ask a really grubby, political question—[chuckles] I’m better at this than you are, of course, because I lived that life for a long time: Would a politician stoop so low as to use religion to get close to voters?
Yeah. I hope I didn’t do it too much, because when I drop dead and I find out there is a God, and, indeed, He has a big book with everything noted. Of course, politicians do it. Did Lincoln do it for that reason? All I know is Lincoln was a master politician.
Gov. Cuomo, what do you think Lincoln would make of the presidential campaign we’re in right now?
He would say, “Thank God I didn’t have to raise that much money.”
Sam Roberts has a good obit and appreciation in The New York Times. The New Yorker goes all out, with posts from Elizabeth Kolbert and Ken Auletta. Kolbert talks about Cuomo's dark broodiness, his moral gravity, and the irony of his time in office, in which the great construction project was prisons. “His great gift,” she writes, “was to make listeners feel that politics was a serious business and that civic life matters.”
My friend Jerry Grillo on Facebook:
I was proud that Mario Cuomo was my governor (back when I lived in New York) and wish him well on the backstage pass portion of his journey. As a photographer for the Suffolk County Democrats, I took his picture, and he gave me his autograph. He was a nice guy, a great leader, a decent human being, the son of immigrants who played minor league baseball here in Georgia one summer. Goodbye, Mr. Cuomo.
Also via Facebook, Robert Reich:
Mario Cuomo was one of the kindest and most dedicated politicians I ever knew, right up there with Teddy Kennedy and Paul Wellstone in my pantheon of the greats. Cuomo lived his values, and those values were almost always in the direction of social justice. I’ll never understand why he decided against running for president. He could have been elected—no one could give a speech as well—and he would have made a terrific leader for the nation.
I missed most of Cuomo's highlights, including the 1984 DNC speech that rocked the Dems and made Cuomo a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, and possibly the presidency, if he so desired. Apparently he didn't so desire. At least not enough. He might've been the Robin Wright of politicians in this regard. I mostly know him from Ken Burns' 1994 “Baseball” documentary, in which we learn, among other things, that Cuomo had signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates for a bigger bonus than Mickey Mantle received from the New York Yankees.
A thoughtful man in thoughtless times. If there's anything to know, now he knows. Rest in peace.
A thoughtful man in thoughtless times.
The Laziest Likely to Succeed
Which is why, while doing background for my review of “Foxcatcher,” this graf in The Washington Post's obit of John E. Du Pont, the heir to the Du Pont fortune and the movie's ostensible villain, stopped me:
John Eleuthere du Pont, who was born in November 1938, was one of four children raised on the same Pennsylvania estate where he lived as an adult. He grew up mostly with his mother after his parents divorced when he was young. He was voted both “laziest” and “most likely to succeed” at the private Haverford School near Philadelphia.
Laziest and Most Likely to Succeed? For the rich, certainly. For the poor, they just get castigated on Fox News.
Candice Dyer's Handy Decoder for Whitespeak, Post-Ferguson
Freelance writer extraordinaire Candice Dyer of Georgia wrote the following today on Facebook about some of her post-Ferguson social media conversations. It seems pretty spot-on:
Having read the same arguments, ad nauseum, over the past couple of days ... here's a handy decoder-translator for whitespeak:
- When you preface a sentence with “I'm not a racist, but ...” That means you're a racist.
- When you say “This is not about race at all” ... That means it's exactly about race.
- When you say “This is all about Sharpton and Jackson playing the race card” ... That means you are the one playing the race card ... as a racist.
- When you say “We still have the best criminal justice system in the world even if it's flawed” ... That means that black people shouldn't complain about it, but you can, when it affects you or your child.
- When you bring up O.J. in this context ... guess what?
- Same goes for any talk of Obama “stirring the pot.”
- Same goes for defaming the dead as a “thug.”
And so on. And so on.
I should add, in all honesty, that my own social media conversations have gone the other way. I came home Monday night to the Twitterverse excoriating Pres. Obama for the “split-screen shot”: he was urging calm while on the other side, smoke, fighting and rioting were going on in the streets of Ferguson. Some said, a bit quickly, that it “defined” his presidency, but I never understood what he should have said or how he should have acted. Should he have not been calm? Should he have urged violence? What he said, and how he acted, seemed proper to me. What he said the next day seemed proper to me, too. He'll get excoriated from the right for that. No winning for the middle in America.
Here's Bob Staake's New Yorker cover for next week:
Election 2014: Voters Tired of Obstructionists in Congress, Vote for More Obstructionists in Congress
Every day I get an email from the New York Times with its various headlines, along with extras. Often they have a quote of the day. This was today's:
QUOTATION OF THE DAY
“All they do is fight between each other and don't get anything done. So we - and I - need something different in there. Everything needs to change.”
-- JOHN MILLER, an independent in Iowa voting in the midterm election.
So it worked. The Republicans obstructed, and the voters, too stupid to realize who to blame, blaming instead the tired, all-encompassing scapegoat of “Washington,” gave us more obstructionists. Or the same ones.
Mr. Miller's quote is from this article: “To Angry Voters, Washington Comes Out the Biggest Loser.” Many of the people interviewed say the same things. Washington just fights, things aren't going well, we need a change. Ergo yesterday.
Was in inevitable? The battleground states tended red, the Dems in office there were swept in in 2008 after eight years of Bush, and now they're being swept out after six year of FOX News propaganda and GOP obstructionism. Not to mention Dems not willing to stand up for what they believe in.
The headline should begin, “To Angry and Stupid Voters ... ”